Saturday, 28 February 2015

Elsie March 1884-1974 Goddendene Locksbottom

I volunteer at Bromley Archives and have the opportunity to greet Winston Churchill each morning!
This bust of Churchill is a rather neglected feature of the archive search room.
It is the work of the remarkable Elsie March who was the seventh child of nine,eight of whom were artists or sculptors.British Pathe  1924 has a silent film depicting "Sister and Seven brothers" at work in the extensive three studios on the seven acre grounds of 17 room Goddendene in Locksbottom which the family occupied from 1901. The studios included an iron foundry and here was cast the National War Memorial of Canada sculptures which were exhibited in Hyde Park in London after their casting in 1932. They had to be stored in the studios at Goddendene as they could not be shipped to Canada until the ground was prepared and the stone work of the monument completed. The family were involved in the installation which was completed by October 1938.
Elsie was the last of the family to die and her ashes were added to the family burials at Saint Giles Farnborough. The burial plot is marked by a bronze angel the 1922 work of her brother Sydney March.
A full biography of Elsie March Wikipedia contains further information about Goddendene.
The site of Goddendene is now a supermarket with scant reference to the family or history of the site Supermarket site
The bust of Churchill has been within The Library Bromley which opened in the 1970's but few people are aware of or notice him. He currently sits above a safe since an earlier home was needed for display space. Strangely the bust never entered Bromley Museum's collection at Orpington Priory now threatened with closure due to cuts by central government which are impacting all local government services. The proposed abolition of the Museum service and redundancy of staff has been deferred until later this year and this would lead to some museum displays being moved to The Library. For now Churchill remains in place on the second floor on a firm foundation.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Amelia Long (Lady Farnborough) Bromley Hill House

As I have now completed the folio of Edward Dunn's funeral accounts from 1830-1839 for online publication as a transcript for Kent Online Parish Clerks later this year I reflected on not only the the two largest funerals that Edward organised in nearly a decade but also the extraordinary achievement of Amelia Long wife of the First Baron Farnborough.
Amelia Hume was the daughter of Sir Abraham Hume an amateur artist and friend of Joshua Reynolds. He also collected art and when Amelia showed skill she became a pupil in the 1790's of  Thomas Girtin and Francis Eridge.
In 1793 Amelia married Charles Long who at the time was member of Parliament for Rye in Sussex but later represented Midhurst Wendover and Haslemere. He was a friend of William Pitt since their Cambridge days and his political career can be found in Charles Long Wikipedia entry.
In 1801 the couple who were childless in their marriage purchased the estate of Bromley Hill House which was to be their country home until their deaths. A local history of the estate and house is found Ravensbourne Valley History.
Amelia began to design and landscape the wooded valley utilising the springs that formed tributaries to the River Ravensbourne. She also painted several scens of the Bromley Hill grounds most notably of the view to London which included the distant dome of Saint Pauls. The auction of one work isfound here.
Amelia's talent and resourcefulness are quite remarkable. Her husband was to serve in major offices of State and to be a member of the Privy Council and to be awarded the order of the Bath by George IV. He furthered the cause of the art and was a powerful influence in the establishment of the National Gallery and purchase of the Elgin Marbles. Charles was awarded a Baronetcy and became first Baron Farnborough.
The death of Amelia on 15 January 1837 meant that Edward Dunn was engaged to make the funeral arrangements. Edward's father's surviving dedicated accounts of funerals date from 1803 until his son Edward takes over in 1830 the year of Edward Senior's death. Edward had between 1830 and Amelia's death arranged many funerals for nobility and was accustomed to burials far away from Bromley.
Amelia and Charles who died in 1838 had expressed a wish to be buried in Wormley Hertfordshire and Edward Dunn mentions in both accounts Wormleybury Manor as the point of arrival of the funeral procession. The Right Honourable Lord Farnborough commissions Edward to make Amelia's funeral arrangements and incidentally pays the cost of £270-4s-0d. Amelia died on 15 January 1837 aged 66 years. The funeral account includes "a stout elm shell stuffed with best wool lined and trimmed with rich white satin inside a stout lead coffin and stout oak outside coffin with rich crimson silk velvet finished with 3 rows of best brass nails" and what Edward Dunn describes as "superb massive brass handles coronets and ornament and a brass engraved plate with arms and supporters Coronet and inscription".
The departure from Bromley Hill House was witnessed by 42 household servants ( Edward Dunn had fitted them with crepe bands) and a hearse pulled by 6 horses and three coaches and four horses were to accompany the coffin through Lewisham and London to Wormleybury Manor in Hertfordshire. In all 28 men from Bromley were employed to travel to the funeral. Arrangements for tolling bells at Bromley and Lewisham were paid for. Two Feathermen were included. They were to both equip the horses coaches and hearse with feathers and in part to carry a board with feathers in front of the hearse. The hearse itself was not only dressed in best black feathers velvets and hammercloths (which covered the coachman's seat and had smaller coronets and crests) but also had "rich side pieces with arms supporters crest motto and large coronet with smaller for hammercloths and tail piece" The coffin beneath a state Velvet pall had a lid of black feathers and a crimson silk velvet cushion with Baron Farnborough's coronet. The coaches had 2 dressed porters with truncheons and the 10 coach pages had staffs and wands.
Edward Dunn had previously travelled to Wormley and there had "two one and a half yard Achievements with supporters mantle crest and pedestal Bath ribbon coronet in black and gold frames" arranged. He had used 18 yards of "super black cloth for fixing to the pulpit Curates Desk Clerks desk and communion table and a rich majesty escutcheon"  The account implies burial at Wormley church but there is no item for a vault or tomb or work commissioned by Edward Dunn.
The widower Charles Long died 18 January 1838 aged 80 years and Edward Dunn is commissioned by the Executors for the estate to undertake arrangements at a cost of £427-1s-6d using a hearse and six horses and five coaches and fours employing 31 men as bearers porters pages  7 coachmen and 2 feathermen. The company appear to spend the night at Waltham Cross before the onward journey on funeral day. This arrangement of a funeral resting overnight is described in more detail in another account of longer distance travel in which Edward describes arrangments for a room for the night for the coffin and Attendants; requiring paid bearers to remove the coffin from the hearse and return it the following morning. Edward is experienced in such funerals in Suffolk Essex Kent and Sussex as well as many burials in London and Middlesex and had assisted his father in several others long distance funerals.
During this period there are other undertakers in the Bromley area but Edward Dunn accounts for a large proportion of burials in Bromley.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Gallery

19 February saw the opening of the former admin building at Bethlem Hospital in Beckenham as home to both the Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery. I value the archive of the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world being within a simple public transport ride from my home. A previous life working at the hospital and my long link to the archive have kept me in touch with the planning of the new museum. I first visited the archive here in 1973 and was surprised at how little space was available to display or research. In those days the museum was only open by prior written appointment and it was usually necessary to give 7 days notice of intention to visit. I recall the old admin building entrance being carpeted so the modern entrance came as a surprise!
The entrance to the upper floor museum and gallery housing temporary or visiting exhibitions is the art deco stairway or by the new lift. The building is wheelchair accessible and is also friendly to other disabilities including deaf or hard of hearing.
The marbled entrance presents the Museums two largest sculptures appropriately welcoming visitors as centuries before they had been on top of the entrance gates to the old Bethlem Hospital in London. "Raving" and" Melancholy" madness the former chained were the work of Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber and from 1676 to 1815 were London landmarks. They are displayed now in ligt and blend well in my opinion with the art deco stairs to the upper floor. Their previous home is well captured in the BBC image of former museum
At the head of the stairs a timeline history of Bethlem Hospital and it's four sites guides the visitor through to the Museum entrance.
Here a floor to ceiling display with sound has an 18 minute film which describes the history of visitors to the hospital inmates of the 18th century mingled with contemporary staff patients relatives and visitors. I was able to contribute to this display in evoking Ned Ward's "confinement" in the early years of the eighteenth century and give him voice. The museum has made excellent use of space and I particularly like the glass wall to the area devoted to the use of physical restraint which contrasts the "padded cell" with the large estate outside which is home to the hospital buildings.

 For details of the Museum and Gallery see Visit london Guide.
The Gallery has space on both floors; the lower floor is home to contemporary art installations and has an artist at work. There is also a room to accommodate speakers and presentations. The gallery is a multi media experience and includes performance art by Liz Atkin and reflects the use of art therapy in the history of the hospital. The upper floor houses temporary exhibitions and the inaugural collection on display features the late Bryan Charnley entitled the Art of Scizophrenia. I have now viewed this exhibition twice and each time found that I gained insight into the paintings. Again the exhibits include not only the artist's work but his link to the collection;an invoice for the hospital purchase of several works alongside palette. This exhibition runs from 16 February-22 May 2015 and further planned exhibits will attract visitors to the Gallery.
I have one minor criticism of the new Museum which is that although highly attended the local road signage to a heritage site which has achieved international recognition in it's opening week on social media and in print is non-existent at present. The site signage has also not been updated. Fortunately the Museum and Gallery is facing the vehicle and pedestrian entrance in Monks Orchard Road but as a heritage site I do hope that the London Boroughs of bromley and Croydon will install brown road signage to guide visitors.
I mentioned that Ned Ward now has a voice in welcoming visitors here in floor to ceilinh multi media is his confinement.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

William Bignall Furnisher Funeral Carriages of Tothill Street Westminster

Bound in the conserved volume of Folio 4 of Edward Dunns funeral accounts held at Bromley Archives is a printed handbill dated August 1824 of William Bignalls charges for providing hearses and black coaches "on the stones" to funeral arrangers.
Bignall had been in charge of stables at the Swan with Two Necks Inn Tothill Street but furnished the "death trade" in London and surrounding couties with hearses and funeral coaches as a Master Black Coachman.
Edward Dunn's accounts include references to hiring local named Bromley coachmen in the 1800's but as he also arranged burials further afield he had need of London hearses and coaches. In the period prior to 1820 many burials at Bromley use local named black coachmen and coaches furnished with velvets and fittings by Dunn. It is also likely that Dunn had acquired a hearse as local burials are charged lower than the Bignall rates. Bromley had a group of coachmakers and coachmen so for some funerals Dunn was able to offer his own service. His items for hearse and coach hire in his accounts for a number of larger funeral processions match Bignalls charges in the 1820's.
Bignall provides a service to the  burial grounds up to 3 miles from Tothill Street and mentions Knightsbridge Pimlico Chelsea Kensington Paddington Kentish Town Saint Martin's New Ground Saint Mary-le-bone New Ground Saint Giles New Ground Pancras Pentonville Lambeth Islington Hackney Kingsland Hoxton Bethnal Green Mile End Stoke Newington Bromley by Bow Stepney Limehouse Poplar Rotherhithe Camberwell and Newington Butts. Edward Dunn records burials at several of these burial grounds with take up in Bromley and district and burial in London.
Bignall had a higher rate for burial grounds 3 to 6 miles from Westminster to Hammersmith Acton Kilburn Hampstead Brixton Hornsey Tottenham Holloway beyond the three mile stone Stockwell Peckham Deptford Dulwich Clapham Battersea Fulham Layton Putney West Ham or any place not named above mentioned and not exceeding six miles. Edward Dunn conducted burials over most of London south of the Thames and further afield in North Kent and hearse and coach charges again reflect the rates of Bignall.
Where hearse and coaches fetched or carried the Company and had waiting time this was to be charged at Hackney Carriage rates by Bignall who would also quotes for journeys further afield.
Folio 4 concludes in 1831 but those entries for that year are duplicated in Folio 5. Edward Dunn 1774-1830 used Bignall and in training his assistant Edward Dunn provided the handbill for reference.
Bignalls continued to provide funeral coaches and hearses from premises at 58 Tothill Street as "Funeral Coachmasters" for decades.
The Bromley Archives bill of Bignalls is uncatalogued as it is bound within a page in conservation binding under reference 688/1/4

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Bromley Funerals in the Georgian and Regency period

Bromley Archives is fortunate to possess funeral accounts from 1803 to the twentieth century of the funeral business of Dunns. From the begining of the 1803 accounts until the summer of 1830 Edward Dunn organised his funeral trade. In 1830 the accounts begin to lack detail some accounts are found in both folios 4 and 5 and by December Edward Dunn has died and is buried in Bromley.
From the beginning Edward's funeral business is clearly unlike the 3 groups of the funeral trade of the period namely coffin makers undertakers and funeral furnishers.
Edward makes and covers his own coffins for child burials and also acts as bearer for infant and child burials in his accounts as late as 1830. Although he commissions coffins from local named tradesmen the Dunn family business were noted as cabinet and furniture makers by this time having traded in drapery furniture and were upholders familiar with the "death trade". Edward is perfectly able to run simultaneously a large funeral and a child burial at Bromley on the same day. His accounts show a wide variety of nails used to line wooden and lead coffins for which he employed local named plumbers.
Edward is quite secific about the size of coffins;specifying one inch elm coffins in several accounts.
Edward Dunn fulfilled pauper burials from the Bromley parish poorhouse throughout the 27 years of his work recorded in his accounts; however sometimes on the same day he was also capable of conducting large funerals with up to 80 male mourners who in the tradition of the period would wear black cloaks,gloves favours and hat bands provided by Edward who also supplied the clergy Parish clerk sexton and bearers with the requested gloves for the funeral service in the church and churchyard. His accounts include hiring 80 cloaks from benefit clubs at various Inns in Bromley and in one case a reference to Freemasonry in Bromley. The Benefit Clubs are also paying for burials at Bromley in this period.
In his later folios it is possible to see that in addition to using local glovers in Bromley that he purchased gloves from Palmer and Company 80 Wood Street Cheapside "Best Town made[that is London] round seamed gloves at 0shillings 11d a pair" and black funeral habits for women from Old City Road.
It is known from accounts that Edward had a funeral hearse in Bromley but for upper class funerals he hired hearse and black funeral coaches often from William Bignall Furnisher of Funeral Carriages in Westminster.
There are recorded collections of bodies from London houses for burial at Bromley and similarly burial at several London burial grounds involving hearses and coaches and these seem to be priced at Bignall's rates of charge in each account.
Edward also employs bearers, coachmen,coach pages in full dress and carrying wands truncheons or staffs as required;mutes are also employed in several funeral processions for the well to do and a lid of feathers is provided in many of these accounts as well as a featherman to walk before the procession.
Whereas it is possible in Georgian and Regency funerals to categorise those in the death trade as either undertaker or funeral furnisher Edward Dunn emerges as one whose family business had existed in Market Square Bromley since 1710 and was highly respected furnishing many large houses in North West Kent. His accounts indicate that he was fully conversant with conveying a body hearse coaches and mourners as far afield as Sussex, "six miles north of Hoddesdon" or parts of Essex with Edward on horseback accompanied by an assistant to personally supervise a burial. His accounts therefore demonstrate a detailed practical ability to accommodate the wishes of any class of person requesting burial.
Bromley was home at Bromley and Sheppards Colleges to the widows and orphans of deceased clergy. Funerals therefore not only involved parish clergy but the chaplains and the presence of the Bishops of Rochester at Bromley Palace added to the need to inter family members and Bishop's in vaults beneath the church.
Edward's accounts also detail work in the catacombs beneath the church to find burial for influential families as well as clergy including the Bishops of Rochester.
In the early years of his accounts burial in the churchyard is relatively conventional a grave being dug to a depth of 6 to eight feet to accommodate anticipated future family burials. However from around 1817 we see that Edward who was appointed sexton in that year adopt a process which ensures that no recent burial in the churchyard is disturbed.
I have blogged about the theft of burials at neighbouring Beckenham churchyard see The Beckenham Resurrectionists. To prevent such occurrence entering Bromley parish Edward adopts a strategy of having extra deep graves dug shored up by oak beams and the head end of the grave to have a hole to lower the coffin onto straw. in several accounts iron bars are also in place to secure the coffin and straw and earth are used to back fill the grave which is immediately returfed. Edward also pays the parish beadle to watch the church yard. The parish beadle in Bromley was armed; there are accounts of escorting felons from the Cage at Bromley to the Assizes armed with a blunderbuss and the lych gate at Bromley also could accommodate watchers for the churchyard which is close to the town centre.
Despite the challenges in excavating graves to a depth of sixteen or seventeen feet the accounts describe sealing the graves by a puddling in process;brick graves are also excavated to exact dimensions and Edward provides a timber centre for forming brick graves in the floor of the church or in the churchyard.
From 1817 the accounts record the work as sextons of both Mister  and Mrs Smith and Mister Carpenter. On several occasions Mrs Smith is paid sextons fees for both opening vaults in the church and graves in the churchyard.
Edward also regularly employs named women probably midwives to sit overnight with the deceased after washing and dressing bodies for burial.As we also have at Bromley Archives the medical practice ledger of Doctor Thomas Ilott who records using midwives to assist in delivery of children it appears that both Dunn and Ilott are paying the same women.
Mrs Dunn is also actively involved in the business. She makes mourning attire for several women and is responsible for fitting women with mourning dress and gloves of various materials.
Coffins for children and teenagers are made of elm and covered with material. Individual child burials specify white material or white coffin handles. Often in Bromley where a child or teenager is buried in a black material covered coffin white lace is attached to coffin handles and as I have transcribed all of the accounts the attention to detail of Edward and his wife has left an impression of care for the individual and grieving family.
Edward does not appear to be part of the trade at that period which used poor timber to construct coffins to be covered with cloth or material. His specifications repeatedly suggest that only "best" was to be used in nailing,timber,plates of inscription, lead coffins,coffin handles. Long after Edward the Dunn business continued to have a reputation for quality whether in the furniture trade. house removal furniture depository or it seems funeral business which grew on the foundation built by Edward.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The 1817 duties of a Bromley Sexton

As I trancribed a volume of the funeral accounts of Dunns for the years 1816-1826 at Bromley Archives I discovered a single sheet of paper which contained the duties of a sexton.
Edward Dunn compiled the funeral accounts in this period and had carried out the funeral business  since at least 1803 when one Folio opens (Folio 1). Dunn was an upholder and I have previously blogged about the business of the upholder. From the earliest records of Dunn it is apparent that he was organising large funerals and elaborate burials often spending up to 3 days carrying a body to Hertfordshire or Sussex. This suggests a familiarity with all aspects of funeral business not a fledgling enterprise to accompany the trade since at least 1710 in premises in Market Square of his forebears in business in Bromley as drapers furnishers cabinet makers and in his era all of these skills combined in providing a complete funeral service.
The document identies several duties

  • to keep the church and pews cleanly swept and aired
  • to make graves and open vaults for the burial of the dead
  • under direction of the churchwardens to provide candles for the church and bread and wine for the communion and water for baptisms
  • to attend church during divine service in order to open pews and prevent disturbances 
The sextons salary was paid by the churchwardens and sextons fees were determined by vestry meetings. The sexton in Bromley "it has been held that if he be removed without sufficient cause a mandamus will lie for his restitution".
The presence of this loose sheet of duties within Edward Dunn's funeral accounts appeared at first curious. Fees paid to sextons for opening the catacombs of Bromley church or opening vaults within the church or digging graves outside are detailed and named individuals appear throughout the years covered.
The reason this document survives to this day is part of the turmoil in the parish in the last years of Reverend Henry Smith's life as Minister of Bromley.Smith served as rector of Hedley Hampshire and for 42 years as Minister of Bromley. He had a reputation as a heavy drinker without apparent signs of intoxication. He also loved to ride to hounds. Horsburgh in his history of Bromley records the occasion when Bishop Horsley of Rochester (resident at his palace at Bromley) witnessed him leap hishorse (and pack) into the highway and the Bishop forbade him hunting as unsuited to his duties as Minister.
Smith had for many years had John Dunn as Parish Clerk in Bromley but John became ill in 1814 and until his death his duties were faithfully carried out by Edward Dunn.In February 1817 a special vestry was summoned to appoint a parish Clerk in place of the deceased John Dunn. The meeting was told of the work of Edward Dunn for over two years and he was proposed as parish clerk. 62 parishioners were present including John Dunkin the Bromley Historian. Edward Dunn was unanimously elected and it was resolved by the Vestry that "the right of appointing a Parish Clerk is vested in the inhabitants of the Parish in Vestry assembled".There was only one dissenting vote.
Doctor Henry Smith asserted his exclusive right to make that appointment and he protested and also instituted proceedings in Doctors Commons. This in turn was referred to the High Court. The matter was heard before Baron Graham at Maidstone Assizes in March 1818 who found against the parishioners and in favour of Henry Smith who appointed William Bateley as Parish Clerk. The reaction of parishioners to the removal of Edward Dunn was on one hand personal and on the other to appoint Edward Dunn as sexton.
Smith was questioned in vestry about how many trees he had felled and benefited from personally but claimed he was too ill to attend to further parish business and when he died on 22 July 1818 aged 68 years matters were resolved.
As the surviving funeral accounts show Dunn kept the duties of a sexton record for later generations to see but two other persons are named as sextons in the funeral accounts as opening catacombs and vaults in the church and digging graves in the churchyard whilst Edward conducted the majority of funerals at Bromley both for poor house interments at the request and payment of churchwardens and for the town's inhabitants and the local landowners and gentry in the district.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The cost of a gravedigger in Bromley Kent 1818

As I transcribe the Dunn funeral accounts book for 1818 I came across a useful table of charges for Mr Harris to dig graves.
Harris arrange for digging graves
4 feet                               one shilling and sixpence
5 feet                               two shillings
6 feet                               two shillings and sixpence
7 feet                               three shillings and sixpence
8 feet                               four shillings and sixpence
and filling in sixpence
9 feet                               six shillings
10 feet                             eight shillings and sixpence
12 feet                             fifteen shillings
additonal depths are noted at 13 feet 6inches and fifteen feet which are not priced and from funeral accounts are negotiable according to the supply of timber shoring by Edward Dunn who itemises this where relevant. There are also references in the accounts to occasions where grave digging involves disturbance and returfing an adjacent burial.
Harris was also quoted as
Opening vaults                 four shillings and sixpence
filling in vaults                 sixpence
digging a single vault        two shillings and tenpence
digging a double vault       3 shillings
and an addional entry
charge Carpenter 9 feet grave and turfing for 12 shillings.
Dunn records a number of vault burials inside the church with details of charges. Dunn used timber framing  for differing size arches to have a bricklayer form a brick vault. There could be no standard size arch as a lead coffin with an outside coffin could vary in size and each vault would therefore differ. In several accounts the person filling the grave was expected to be dressed in funeral attire during the service and is supplied with an appropriate colour co-ordinated hat band gloves cloak and favour.
In this folio there is also an undated page recording the duties of the sexton at Bromley responsible for cleaning  after opening and filling a vault in the church.
The earth at Bromley after turf and topsoil removal is heavy clay and involves heavy manual labour to dig to depth; depending on the height of the water table standing water may also be a problem. It appears that the floor of the parish church was partly flag stone but some references suggest that part may have been bare earth.
The choice of a lead coffin for the more affluent would suggest that some attempt to protect against water entry into the coffin.The lead coffin would be formed by plumbers laying lead over a wooden shell to which the lead would be nailed. I remain to be convinced that a lead coffin soldered after wards would in fact be water tight but in both Georgian and Regency tastes lead coffins were sought as the emerging transcript will record.